A North Adams man awaiting sentencing for a probation violation is now facing a separate criminal enterprising charge, according to the Hillsdale County Prosecutor’s Office.
The office charged Shane Edward Mitchell, 45, with criminal enterprise relating to his tree-cutting company, Mitchell’s Tree Climbers. His bond is set at $50,000, according to court documents.
Prosecuting Attorney Neal Brady said charges stem from Mitchell’s tree-cutting service as a way to defraud customers out of thousands of dollars by contracting work, receiving payment, then not showing up to do the work. He scammed customers in this way for more than three years. Hillsdale City Police identified six victims during their investigation, according to Lt. Jason Stiverson of the Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Office.
Stiverson said Mitchell allegedly stole more than $1,000 in two or more instances leading to the criminal enterprise charge.
In November, Mitchell pleaded guilty to carrying a concealed weapon as a habitual offender and was placed on probation for 11 months. Mitchell later failed to report to his probation agent later that month, leading to his arrest in December.
Chris Gautz, the Michigan Department of Corrections public information officer, said Mitchell tested positive for methamphetamine during a drug test upon arriving at Hillsdale County Jail in December.
On Jan. 13, Mitchell pleaded guilty to the probation violation on Jan. 13 and now awaits sentencing in February.
In the criminal enterprise case, Brady said he offered Mitchell a deal of pleading guilty to one count of theft by false pretenses over $1,000, a five-year felony, with restitution to be paid to all the victims. In exchange, Mitchel would not face the criminal enterprise charge, which carries a 10-year prison sentence if Mitchell is found guilty, according to Brady.
“He will likely reject that offer and say that it’s all a civil matter, some have even sued him civilly,” Brady said in an email.
Brady said Mitchell could argue that he meant to do the work but fell on bad times by getting in trouble with the law, getting addicted to drugs, and struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mitchell had a probable cause hearing on Jan. 26. Brady said Mitchell wants a preliminary exam scheduled next week where prosecutors will have to show enough evidence to charge Mitchell.
Rod Dunham, Mitchell’s attorney, declined to comment on the case.
At the time of publication, Mitchell is expected to remain in Hillsdale County Jail until his sentencing hearing in February. If the judge concludes that there is probable cause Mitchell committed criminal enterprise, then a trial will be scheduled for the summer, according to Brady.